Thus Spoke LaChapelle
Exhibition at Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague, Czech Republic.
Publication: Arbor vitae, Revnice, and Pavleye Art and Culture
Publication date: 2011
Credits: Otto M. Urban, Barbora Stefanova, Keith Jones, Robert V. Novak, and Irena Lehkozivova
Format: 10.2" x 12.2”
Features: 282 pages, full color, hardcover book
Language: English / Czech
Excerpt from the critical essay, “David LaChapelle’s World Through the Looking Glass” by Otto M. Urban:
Although for more than five years the American photographer David LaChapelle has moved almost exclusively in the circles of art galleries and museums, his work continues to be seen through a perspective which became entrenched already in the 1990s. At that time LaChapelle was the emergent shining star of advertising photography, and he drew the attention of lifestyle magazine editors, rather than curators or contemporary art theorists. Despite his indisputable quality, his work from the 1980s was more or less unknown, and critics were at a loss as to what to make of this iridescent and colorfully surreal stages scenes. LaChapelle was nonetheless clearly aware that he had succeeded in forging an original visual style about which he was confident, and he ignored disparaging responses. When at the beginning of the new millennium he gradually made up his mind to leave the world of advertising, he knew that a return to the world of galleries and museums would not be easy. He was well aware that he would have to respond to all manner of superficial rejections and critiques, which would regard even his new works through the same simplified prism which had been applied to LaChapelle’s previous output.
Almost three of the writers to address his work over the last twenty years have repeated with remarkable persistence a list of all the prizes and various public honours bestowed upon the artist in countless numbers throughout his career. Often it seems more like an attempt to affirm LaChapelle’s status in some imaginary dialogue with the critics of his oeuvre. Opinions of his work often differ diametrically, from uncritical adoration to uncompromising rebuttal: “There is no middle ground with David LaChapelle: either you love him or you hate him. The loud humour! The screaming colours! The glitz and the glamour! The freaks and outcasts! The voyeurism! The over-the-top scenarios! The giant sets! The outrageous clothes! The plastic! The sex! The religious connotations! These are all trademarks of LaChapelle that have earned him as much acclaim as contempt.” To reflect on the work of David LaChapelle means to clear one’s mind of the extreme views and lingering clichés often voiced in regard to his photographs.